Impact of Childhood Hunger on Health & Education

September 19, 2012
by Feeding America

This week, Feeding America and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on the impact of childhood hunger on health and education. We were joined by a great panel of experts, including Dr. Maureen Black of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Bill Dalbec, Senior VP at APCO Insight, and Dr. Elaine Waxman, Vice President of Research at Feeding America. Our panelists provided insight about the prevalence of childhood hunger nationwide, the impact it is having on our kids, and what programs and policies exist to combat it. As Dr. Black outlined so effectively, we know that hunger is hurting kids' health and cognition, with lasting consequences for both kids and the communities in which they live.

We were also able to share some exciting new research from both of our organizations. Share Our Strength's new report, Hunger in our Schools found that three out of five teachers see kids coming to school hungry on a regular basis, and teachers are seeing the impact in the classroom. We can see how hunger impacts these communities in Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap Child Food Insecurity. This report lays out child food insecurity rates for each county, congressional district, and state across the country. Here's what we know: there is no congressional district in America that is free from hunger. Child hunger ranges from a low of 11% in North Dakota-At Large to a high of 39% in California's 20th District. That's a staggering fact and one that demands action from our leaders.

Amidst these dismal statistics, there is a silver lining. Federal nutrition programs, in particular, SNAP, are working effectively to ensure kids have the food they need to be healthy and successful. Nearly half of all SNAP households include children. Other programs like school breakfast and lunch target children during the school day to make sure they can focus on learning and not their growling stomachs. Together these programs form a comprehensive safety net to help ensure kids get the food and nutrition they need at home and school.

With so many children at risk of hunger, it is hard to fathom that Congress would propose cutting food assistance to children. Yet Congress would do just that. For example, the House Farm Bill would remove two to three million individuals from the SNAP program; an additional 500,000 households would have their SNAP benefits cut by $90 per month, and nearly 300,000 children would lose free school meals because their enrollment is tied to their family's SNAP participation. These cuts would be devastating for children, and these costs would ripple into communities through the decreased health and educational outcomes associated with hunger.

We need our leaders in Congress to commit to protecting nutrition programs — the future of our kids is depending on it.

Lisa Davis, Vice President of Public Policy, Feeding America Tom Nelson, President, Share Our Strength